ONLINE COLLEGE STUDENTS - Comprehensive Data on Demands and Preferences - Learning House

 
2018

ONLINE COLLEGE
  STUDENTS
       Comprehensive Data on Demands and Preferences
ONLI NE COLLEG E
ST U DE N TS 2 0 1 8
Comprehensive Data on Demands and Preferences

   A joint project of The Learning House, Inc.
   and Aslanian Market Research

   Andrew J. Magda
   Carol B. Aslanian

A number of individuals contributed to the project.

Andrew J. Magda led the Learning House team, which included Betty Cesarano, Shandi Thompson,
and Christy Swanberg. Carol B. Aslanian led the Aslanian Market Research team, which included Scott
Jeffe and Steven Fischer.

Suggested Citation: Magda, A. J., & Aslanian, C. B. (2018). Online college students 2018:
Comprehensive data on demands and preferences. Louisville, KY: The Learning House, Inc.

June 2018
Copyright ©2018 by The Learning House, Inc. and EducationDynamics
All rights reserved.
Table of Contents

         INTRODUCTION .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  . 4
                Preface  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  4
                Key Findings .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  . 6

         SECTION 1: UNDERSTANDING THE ONLINE COLLEGE STUDENT  .  .  .  .  .  .  . 9
                Motivated by Career . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .9
                Experience with Online Learning  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  10
                Knowing Their Program of Study .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  . 11
                Fields of Study .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .12
                Important Factors in School Decision  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .14

         SECTION 2: RECRUITING THE ONLINE COLLEGE STUDENT  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .                                                                                       15
                Studying in a Classroom  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  . 15
                Transfer Credits .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  . 16
                Prior Learning Assessments .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  . 17
                Number of Schools Contacted and Applied to .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .18
                Application Timeline .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  20
                Financial Aid and Transfer Credit Decision Timelines  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .21
                Mobile Search  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  23
                Memorable Advertisements  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  . 24
                Primary Sources of Information .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  26
                Online Program Features .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  28
                The “Single Most Important Reason” for Selecting a School .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  . 29

Online College Students 2018: Comprehensive Data on Demands and Preferences                                                                                                        page | 2
SECTION 3: FINANCING EDUCATION FOR THE ONLINE STUDENT  .  .  .  .  .  . 31
                Tuition Reimbursement  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .31
                Price Versus Other Factors .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  32
                Influence of Scholarships .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  33
                Optimal Tuition .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  34
                Perceived Value of Online Learning .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  36

         SECTION 4: TEACHING THE ONLINE COLLEGE STUDENT  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  . 38
                Using Mobile Devices for Online Education  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  . 38
                Ingredients for Success .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  40

         SECTION 5: INNOVATIONS FOR THE ONLINE COLLEGE STUDENT  .  .  .  .  .  . 42
                Competency-Based Education .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  42
                Stackable Certificates .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  44
                Textbook-Free Courses .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  45

         SECTION 6: SERVICING THE ONLINE COLLEGE STUDENT  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  . 47
                Career Services  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  47
                Staying Local .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  50
                Doing It Over Again .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  52

         APPENDIX: DEMOGRAPHICS  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  . 54

         METHODOLOGY  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  . 57

         REFERENCES  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  . 59
                References  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  . 59
                Partners .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  60
                Authors .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .  .61

Online College Students 2018: Comprehensive Data on Demands and Preferences                                                                                                      page | 3
INTRODUCTION

         PREFACE

         This is the seventh edition of Online College Students, a joint report on the survey of 1,500
         past, present, and prospective fully online college students conducted by Learning House
         and Aslanian Market Research. The purpose of this report is to provide higher education
         leaders the data they need to best attract, serve, and retain the online college student.
         Compared to college students who are searching for a campus-based program, online
         students have unique preferences, needs, and requirements.

         Higher education has been experiencing an overall decline in students, but this is not the
         case for online learning. While overall enrollments have decreased for an unprecedented
         12 consecutive terms (National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, 2017), in 2017
         alone, online enrollments grew 3% to 3.85 million among fully or majority online learners
         (Eduventures, 2017). Growth, however, is expected to slow among online students.
         Eduventures forecasts that the market will plateau at 4 million students for 2019 and 2020
         due to an improving economy and a decline in high school graduates.

         Colleges and universities attempting to service the online market also face an increased
         feeling of competition amongst their peers. Nearly 60% of institutions with online enrollments
         believe that the online program marketplace is “much more competitive” than it was five
         years ago (Eduventures & Quality Matters, 2017). These underlying trends help fuel debate
         over the rising financial cost of a college degree and its intrinsic value.

         These variables create a dilemma for higher education providers. Should institutions risk
         buckling under the pressure created by shrinking enrollments and increased competition
         seen in traditional higher education? Or should they embrace this pressure and move

Introduction
Online College Students 2018: Comprehensive Data on Demands and Preferences                               page | 4
forward with new innovations and strategies in online education to not only attract and
         retain current and new student groups, but to contain rising costs and renew their belief in
         the value of an academic degree?

         This report can help institutions identify how to best serve an online audience and stand
         out in an increasingly crowded marketplace. Although pricing is key, institutions cannot
         continue to rely on it alone to attract students, as 1) it is not a long-term economically
         viable strategy, and 2) it inhibits innovation. Programs offered online need to stand out and
         continue to evolve, incorporating new features that attract and benefit online students. Our
         survey has found strong interest in programmatic features that can benefit students in the
         long term, such as the use of open educational resources (OERs) to lower or eliminate the
         cost of textbooks.

         The survey that underpins this report has evolved over time. Certain questions are asked
         nearly every year, while others that have more consistent responses are rotated to identify
         significant shifts in attitudes and behaviors. We urge colleges and universities interested in
         serving this unique student population to also review the past six Online College Students
         reports on our websites.

         Please visit learninghouse.com/research and educationdynamics.com/e-books to
         access those reports.

         We hope online leaders will find the following information useful in expanding access and
         improving the quality of their programs. Recommendations for online programs based on
         survey findings and our collective experiences are presented in bold, italicized text at
         the end of some sections.

Introduction
Online College Students 2018: Comprehensive Data on Demands and Preferences                               page | 5
KEY FINDINGS

         Below is a summary of key findings within the report.

         1.   Mobile-friendly content is critical.

              Virtually every online college student owns a smartphone or tablet. The overwhelming
              majority of students use mobile devices not only to search for their online program of
              study (87%) but also to complete online coursework (67%). Ensuring course content and
              websites are optimized for mobile is vital for colleges and universities that are pushing to
              grow and retain their online student population.

         2. Online students need career services.

              As three-quarters (74%) of online college students are pursuing their program for career-
              focused reasons, career services are increasingly applicable to their post-graduation
              success. While 54% of online college students are employed full time, many are looking
              for career advancement or a new career. Online students reported utilizing services such
              as working with a career advisor (50%), resume help (48%), and job search assistance
              (40%). Online access to career services, including opportunities to engage with a
              counselor or mentor, is an integral part of a high-touch institution’s value, and students
              are taking advantage of the opportunity to achieve stronger outcomes upon graduation.

         3. Online learning is providing a positive return on students’ investment.

              Sixty percent of online college students have completed an online course or program
              prior to their most recent search for an online program. This experience may lead them
              to prematurely rush to a decision on a program, as more than half (56%) would change at
              least one thing they did during the enrollment process. However, even if online students
              wish they took more time to decide on a program, they still graduate with a positive
              experience. Eighty-six percent of online students believe the value of their degree equals
              or exceeds the cost they paid for it. For students who have experienced both in-person
              and virtual classrooms, 85% feel that learning online is as good or better than attending
              courses on campus.

Introduction
Online College Students 2018: Comprehensive Data on Demands and Preferences                                  page | 6
4. Online programs are becoming more diversified.

              As more students pursue an education online, shifts are occurring in the programs
              they seek. While business and education are still programs of high interest for both
              undergraduate and graduate online students, the programs are not commanding the
              same portion of the market they once did. In 2014, education accounted for 22% of
              graduate students and business for 28%, while in 2018 they account for only 14% and 21%,
              respectively. Now, we are seeing increased interest in more diverse fields of study. In the
              graduate student segment, areas such as computers and IT (15%), health and medicine
              (16%), and STEM (11%) have seen steady growth compared to 2014 data. Institutions that
              diversify online offerings may be able to take advantage of new segments of students
              they could not serve previously.

         5. Online students support innovations that decrease the cost and time to
            complete a degree.

              As online learning has established itself as a valid learning medium, higher education is
              experimenting with the modality needed to tackle student debt and degree completion
              problems that plague the sector. The good news is that students are on board with
              competency-based education (49% would consider), stackable certificates (43% very
              interested), and textbook-free courses (61% would consider). As students learn more
              about these innovations and are ready to embrace them, institutions should consider
              how bringing new options to the table could impact their reach to potential students.

         6. Interactions and relationships with peers are key to online students’ success.

              Online students may be seeking a “learn at my own pace” educational experience,
              but that does not mean they want to be devoid of contact with their peers. Fifty-seven
              percent of past and current online students report that interactions with classmates are
              very important to their academic success. Online courses should offer opportunities
              to foster these interactions, however, these opportunities do not need to be held on a
              frequent basis as asynchronous learning tools such as PowerPoints and videos (58%),
              textbooks (52%), and written assignments (51%) were also seen as very important to online
              students’ success. It should also be noted that textbooks can be replaced with OERs in
              the classroom, as 79% of online college students have some level of familiarity with them,
              and over 60% would definitely be open to an OER course or program in the future.

Introduction
Online College Students 2018: Comprehensive Data on Demands and Preferences                                 page | 7
7.   Multichannel approaches to advertising and marketing are necessary to
              attract online students.

              Unsurprisingly, marketing through digital channels resonates with online students.
              Search engine listings, email, website, and Facebook ads proved memorable for one-
              quarter or more of the students surveyed. Less predictable was the apparent impact of
              traditional marketing efforts, such as television commercials (30%), and college fairs (23%).
              Similarly, prospective students are most likely to visit a college’s website (41%) to gather
              additional information about programs of interest. Online students also utilize traditional,
              nondigital channels to solicit program information; nearly one-quarter of prospects
              called schools, and another 16% attended open houses in person (13% attended virtual
              events). Consequently, it would behoove schools to promote online degrees and make
              information available through multiple formats.

         8. An online degree’s value is more than its price.

              Tuition and fees continue to be the top factor online college students cite when selecting
              their program. However, while not every institution can indeed be the least expensive,
              “affordability” can be demonstrated in many ways outside of tuition rates. Factors that
              increase the perception of an institution’s or program’s value include program convenience
              (28%), institutional reputation (23%), or offering the best content (21%). Implementing even
              a small annual scholarship of $500 may sway 39% of students. With the availability of
              additional benefits tied to attending an institution, most students are willing to pay a
              slightly higher rate. Furthermore, online college students will point to the importance of a
              program matching their needs as being the most important factor in their decision, and it
              seems that a faster completion time can also outweigh scholarships.

         9. Online students are bypassing the on-ground classroom for added convenience.

              Nearly 60% of online college students who had a choice between online and on-ground
              actively chose online learning. Online programs have built in many conveniences that
              on-ground programs often still lack. Opportunities to take year-round courses (27%)
              and accelerated courses (20%) inform some online students’ decisions, while others
              take advantage of generous transfer policies that ease their time to completion (85% of
              online learners have prior college credit, with 25% of these students having more than 60
              credits, priming them for quick completion of a bachelor’s degree).

Introduction
Online College Students 2018: Comprehensive Data on Demands and Preferences                                   page | 8
SECTION 1:
                    UNDERSTANDING THE ONLINE
                        COLLEGE STUDENT

         MOTIVATED BY CAREER

         Nearly three-quarters (74%) of online college students are motivated by career reasons to
         enroll in a program. Almost one in five (17%) students are transitioning to new careers, 16%
         are updating their skills for their current job, and 13% are looking for an increase in salary. For
         those not motivated by career, 17% want the satisfaction of completing their degree, and 7%
         view higher education as the next step in their education after receiving their high school
         diploma or GED.

            What was your primary motivation for enrolling in further education?                   All Students

            I wanted to transition to a new career field                                                17%

            I wanted to update the skills required for my job                                           16%

            I wanted to increase my wages/salary                                                        13%

            It was required by my employer/profession                                                   10%

            The satisfaction of completing my undergraduate education                                   10%

            I was seeking a promotion/new position in my career field                                   9%

            I was unemployed and needed more education to get a new job                                 8%

            The satisfaction of completing my graduate education                                         7%

            I had finished high school/GED                                                               7%

            I was working part time and wanted to move to full-time work                                3%

            Other personal reasons not related to career                                                 2%

                                                                   *Bold italic denotes the categories tied to career

Section 1: Understanding the Online College Student
Online College Students 2018: Comprehensive Data on Demands and Preferences                                             page | 9
EXPERIENCE WITH ONLINE LEARNING

         Online learning is not new to the majority of students surveyed. Sixty percent of online learners
         have enrolled in online courses or a fully online program prior to their most recent online
         studies. One in four (24%) have completed an online program, and 37% have completed
         individual online courses. It is interesting to note that the split between undergraduate and
         graduate students is relatively even.

                 Prior to your most recent online study, had you ever enrolled in fully online
                                      courses or programs previously?

                                                                              Yes       No

                  40%                                                 37%     Yes, I completed
                                                                              individual online courses

                                                                              Yes, I completed another
                                                 60%                    8%    fully online program

                                                                              Yes, both online
                                                                      15%     courses and programs

Section 1: Understanding the Online College Student
Online College Students 2018: Comprehensive Data on Demands and Preferences                                  page | 10
KNOWING THEIR PROGRAM OF STUDY

         Most students know the specific program they want to study online. Just over one-third (36%)
         know the general field but not the specific online program. Nine percent know they want or
         need to go back to school, but they have not narrowed down what they want to study.

               When you began looking for your most recent online program, to what extent
                   did you know the specific program in which you wanted to enroll?

                                  9%
                                                                          I knew the specific academic
                                                                          program I wanted

                                                                          I knew the general field I
                                                                          wanted to study, but hadn't
                      36%                             55%                 decided on a specific program

                                                                          I didn't really know
                                                                          what I wanted to study

            R E CO M M E N DAT I O N:
            With 45% of online college students unsure of what they want to study, enrollment
            counselors at an institution need to be prepared to describe all program opportunities for
            prospective students. Enrollment counselors also need to articulate the additional benefits
            the institution provides to help undecided students understand what program at the school
            best fits their needs and why.

Section 1: Understanding the Online College Student
Online College Students 2018: Comprehensive Data on Demands and Preferences                               page | 11
FIELDS OF STUDY

         Business continues to be the most popular field sought by online college students. However,
         business is losing market share to other fields of study at the undergraduate and graduate
         levels. Education at the graduate level continues to lose a significant share of online students
         — dropping from 22% in 2014 to 14% in 2018. An important factor in this conversion is that
         as the online education market has matured and increased in popularity, the number and
         types of programs have grown as well. On the other hand, online education has always been
         dominated by practical, career-focused offerings like business and education, which have
         been strong-performing programs.

                                                                                                 Movement
         Growing fields include computers and IT at                   Undergraduate
                                                                                                  2014 to
         the graduate level (up from 9% in 2014 to 15%                Field of Study               2018
         in 2018), STEM fields at the graduate level
                                                                      Business Administration       q
         (6% in 2014 to 11% in 2018), and health and
         medicine at the graduate level (11% to 16%). The             Psychology                    q
         undergraduate level has seen less dramatic
         shifts, with health and medicine, STEM, and arts             Computer Science              p

         and humanities growing just 1 or 2 percentage
                                                                      Child Psychology              p
         points in four years.

         Specific fields of study underpinning these
         larger umbrellas helped to cause some of these                                          Movement
                                                                      Graduate
                                                                                                  2014 to
         shifts. Since 2014, we have seen the business                Field of Study               2018
         administration degree shed market share at
                                                                      Business Administration       q
         both the undergraduate and graduate levels to
         other program areas such as computer science.                Nursing                       q
         General psychology at the undergraduate level
         has also shrunk, with the more specialized field             Elementary Education          q
         of child psychology gaining market share. At the
                                                                      Curriculum & Instruction      q
         graduate level, a similar trend is seen in nursing,
         with the more general MSN ceding market share
                                                                      Computer Science              p
         to nurse practitioner and family nurse practitioner
         programs. Education programs such as elementary              Social Work                   p
         education and curriculum and instruction appear
         to be giving way to the growing momentum seen                Information Technology        p

         in social work and IT programs.
                                                                      Nurse Practitioner            p

Section 1: Understanding the Online College Student
Online College Students 2018: Comprehensive Data on Demands and Preferences                                 page | 12
2018        2014     Undergrad                      Grad
                                                                 23%                          21%
                                 Business
                                                              28%                          28%

                                                                19%                       16%
                        Health & Medicine
                                                        17%                    11%

                                                           13%                            15%
                           Computers & IT
                                                    14%                        9%

                          Social Sciences,
                                                          11%                       8%
                      Criminal Justice, Law
                                                  11%                         10%

                                                         10%                       5%
                        Arts & Humanities
                                                 9%                           7%

                                                        9%                               14%
                     Education & Teaching
                                                8%                                      22%

                                 Science,
                              Technology,             7%                             11%
                             Engineering,
                          or Mathematics       6%                             6%

                          Counseling,               5%                               8%
                       Human Services
                                               6%                             8%

Section 1: Understanding the Online College Student
Online College Students 2018: Comprehensive Data on Demands and Preferences                         page | 13
IMPORTANT FACTORS IN SCHOOL DECISION

         The cost of tuition and fees is still a top-ranking factor for deciding where online college
         students look to enroll. The cost of tuition and fees has been ranked as the top choice by
         students for the past four years, and it continues to dominate all other factors. The next most
         important factors are reputation of the school or program.

            What are the most important factors in your decision about which
                                                                                            All Students
            school to enroll for an online program? [Selected top three]

            Tuition and fees                                                                    34%

            Reputation of the program I wanted                                                  13%

            Reputation of the school                                                            11%

            Home location of the school                                                         11%

            Quality of faculty                                                                  6%

            The school offers multiple study formats                                            6%

            Fit: the school reflects my values                                                  6%

            Positive interactions with staff during enrollment process                          5%

            Recommendation of someone I respect                                                 5%

            Alumni achievements                                                                 3%

            Something else                                                                       1%

            R E CO M M E N DAT I O N:
            Online college students are a unique, diverse group, and there is no single “right” way to
            approach this group. However, these students are career and goal focused, and they are
            searching for a program that can help them achieve results. Most of them have learned
            online before and know what they want to study. Furthermore, the majority of online college
            students are looking to enroll full time. Higher learning institutions need to detail as much
            information on the programs and services that are offered to students as possible. If this is
            made available to students, an informed decision can be made more quickly.

Section 1: Understanding the Online College Student
Online College Students 2018: Comprehensive Data on Demands and Preferences                                 page | 14
SECTION 2:
                           RECRUITING THE ONLINE
                             COLLEGE STUDENT

         STUDYING IN A CLASSROOM

         Online students are able and willing to study in classroom environments; many are simply
         making a choice to study online. The majority (57%) probably or definitely would have enrolled
         in a classroom program if it was not offered online; these students are choosing to bypass
         the classroom. On the other hand, 24% likely would not have been able to go back to school
         without an online program, as they probably or definitely would not have chosen a classroom
         program if it was not offered online.

              If the program you wanted was not available in an online format, how likely is it
                              that you would enroll in a classroom program?

                                       Definitely not          9%

                                       Probably not                  15%

                                           Not sure                       20%

                                     Probably would                             31%

                                    Definitely would                          26%

Section 2: Recruiting the Online College Student
Online College Students 2018: Comprehensive Data on Demands and Preferences                               page | 15
TRANSFER CREDITS

         Transfer credit policies are very important to online college students. The majority (85%) of
         undergraduates have credit they can transfer into their next program. Nearly one-quarter (23%)
         of these students have earned 60 or more credits, putting them well on pace for completing
         a bachelor’s degree. Only 15% have no credits to transfer into their next program, but they
         may have some type of life experience or training that could translate into experiential credits.

                                 How many undergraduate credits do you have?

                                             None                        15%

                                               1-15                            21%

                                             16-30                            19%

                                             31-59                       15%

                                            60-90                    12%

                              More than 90 credits                 11%

                                      I don't recall          7%

Section 2: Recruiting the Online College Student
Online College Students 2018: Comprehensive Data on Demands and Preferences                                  page | 16
PRIOR LEARNING ASSESSMENTS

         Prior learning assessments (PLAs) can award students credit for life or work experiences.
         About one-third (32%) of online college students are awarded this type of credit during the
         application process, but the remaining 68% said they did not or were unsure if they received
         such an award; this is a sizable group of students that could benefit in terms of time and
         money.

                    Did any of the online schools you applied to award you any credits
               from a prior learning assessment (PLA) or other method of awarding credit for
                                           life/work experience?

                                  32%                         32%              Yes

                                                                               No

                                                                               Unsure

                                                36%

            R E CO M M E N DAT I O N:
            Online college students have transfer credits and life experiences that can translate
            into academic credit. Schools should ensure that general transfer credit guidelines —
            such as how the process works, how many credits they are able to accept, and any
            articulation agreements that are in place — are clear on their websites. Furthermore,
            enrollment professionals should be asking students about transfer credits and life
            experiences, which will encourage a PLA process that helps students turn specific
            experiences into academic credit.

Section 2: Recruiting the Online College Student
Online College Students 2018: Comprehensive Data on Demands and Preferences                             page | 17
NUMBER OF SCHOOLS CONTACTED AND APPLIED TO

         Fifty-nine percent of all online students reach out to two or three schools for information about
         an online program before deciding where to apply. Across the entire online college student
         population, the average student reaches out to 2.54 schools. Graduate students reach out
         to more schools for online program information than their undergraduate counterparts — an
         average of 2.70 schools compared to 2.44. But when it comes to how many schools students
         apply to, the numbers are nearly identical: 2.31 for graduates and 2.26 for undergraduates.

                           How many schools did you contact or request information
                                       from about online programs?

                                                                       25%
                                          One
                                                                17%
                                                                              32%
                                           Two
                                                                              32%
                                                                        27%
                                         Three
                                                                        28%
                                                        8%
                                          Four                                Undergraduate
                                                        9%
                                                                              Graduate
                                                         9%
                                   Five or more
                                                           14%

Section 2: Recruiting the Online College Student
Online College Students 2018: Comprehensive Data on Demands and Preferences                                  page | 18
How many schools did you apply to?

                                                                        27%
                                          One
                                                                        27%
                                                                                 39%
                                           Two
                                                                                37%
                                                                   21%
                                         Three
                                                                   21%
                                                     5%
                                          Four                                Undergraduate
                                                      8%
                                                                              Graduate
                                                       7%
                                   Five or more
                                                       7%

Section 2: Recruiting the Online College Student
Online College Students 2018: Comprehensive Data on Demands and Preferences                   page | 19
APPLICATION TIMELINE

         Online college students apply to a school within weeks of starting their search process. Sixty-
         two percent make the decision within four weeks. This may seem relatively fast for such an
         important and expensive life decision, but this statistic is lower than in 2016, when 71% of
         online college students began their search and applied to a school within four weeks.

                 How long did it take you from the time you first started your search for an
                           online program to completing your first application?

                                                                              31%
                             Less than 2 weeks
                                                                          38%

                                                                              31%
                                     2-4 weeks
                                                                      33%

                                                                   21%
                                     5-8 weeks
                                                          18%

                                                        8%
                                    9-12 weeks                                 Current and Past Students 2018
                                                  7%
                                                                               Current and Past Students 2016
                                                         9%
                             3 months or longer
                                                  8%

Section 2: Recruiting the Online College Student
Online College Students 2018: Comprehensive Data on Demands and Preferences                                     page | 20
FINANCIAL AID AND TRANSFER CREDIT DECISION
         TIMELINES

         Just as the time span from search to application has decreased, so has the strong demand
         for decisions on financial aid and transfer credit. In 2016, 38% of students wanted to know an
         estimate of their financial aid award before submitting their application, but this preference
         has declined to 20% of students. The importance of decisions on transfer credits has also
         decreased. In 2016, 44% of students expected to learn how much transfer credit they would
         earn before applying, but this figure declined to 29% in 2018. Although there is a sizable
         group of students looking for financial aid estimates and transfer credit decisions as soon as
         possible, nearly half of all online college students would be satisfied if this information could
         be provided within one to two weeks of applying.

                          When would you expect to receive (at least) an estimate of
                                        your financial aid award?

                                      Before I submitted
                                                                         20%
                                         my application
                                                                               38%

                              Less than one week after
                                                                        17%
                              submitting my application
                                                                       23%

                                        1-2 weeks after
                                                                               29%
                              submitting my application
                                                                       23%

                                        3-4 weeks after
                                                                        17%
                              submitting my application
                                                             7%

                                 5 or more weeks after
                                                                  6%
                                                                                 All Students 2018
                              submitting my application
                                                             2%
                                                                                 All Students 2016
                                                                   11%
                                 I was not eligible for or
                           did not apply for financial aid   7%

Section 2: Recruiting the Online College Student
Online College Students 2018: Comprehensive Data on Demands and Preferences                                  page | 21
When would you expect to find out how much of your previously earned credit
                              would transfer into your online program?

                                 Before I submitted
                                                                              29%
                                    my application
                                                                                44%

                          Less than one week after
                                                                       18%
                          submitting my application
                                                                  21%

                                    1-2 weeks after
                                                                         24%
                          submitting my application
                                                                 18%

                                    3-4 weeks after
                                                                  12%
                          submitting my application
                                                       6%

                             5 or more weeks after
                                                            4%
                                                                               All Students 2018
                          submitting my application
                                                        2%
                                                                               All Students 2016
                                                                  12%
                                 I did not have any
                                 credits to transfer    9%

            R E CO M M E N DAT I O N:
            Online college students typically know the program they are interested in and are
            motivated by career reasons. As a result, they want to move quickly through the
            application and enrollment process. Higher education institutions need to pay
            close attention to preliminary transfer credit evaluations and unofficial financial aid
            assessments, which can be key in helping students know where they stand with the
            institution and help them make a more informed decision on their education.

Section 2: Recruiting the Online College Student
Online College Students 2018: Comprehensive Data on Demands and Preferences                           page | 22
MOBILE SEARCH

         More than 99% of online college students own a mobile device, which is defined as
         a smartphone or a tablet, but not a laptop. Forty-four percent of online college students
         conducted all or almost all of their research on a mobile device, while only 13% did not conduct
         any of their research this way. Therefore, everything from school websites to advertising
         needs to be mobile friendly.

         Thirty-six percent of prospective online college students would like to complete all or most
         of their online course-related activities on a mobile device. This mirrors the percentage of
         current or past online students when asked about how much of their coursework they have
         completed on a mobile device.

         Online students were generally satisfied with the way content was displayed on their mobile
         device while they were conducting their search. Of those who used a mobile device, 68%
         rated the experience as a 4 or 5 out of a five-point scale where 5 was “very satisfied.” Only
         8% rated the experience as a 1 or 2.

                To what extent did you conduct any of your research about schools to attend
                        on a mobile device? (smartphone or tablet, but not a laptop)

                                 Not at all                  13%

                                    Some                                                     42%

                                Almost all                                       33%

                                        All               11%

               I don’t own a mobile device    0%

Section 2: Recruiting the Online College Student
Online College Students 2018: Comprehensive Data on Demands and Preferences                                 page | 23
How much of your course-related activities would you like to complete on a
                                            mobile device?

                                        18%            12%
                                                                              All

                                                                              Most
                                                                 24%
                                                                              Some

                                                                              None
                                       46%

         MEMORABLE ADVERTISEMENTS

         Digital advertisements appear to be remembered more by online college students than
         traditional advertisements. It is unclear whether digital ads are experienced more often, but
         the impact appears to last longer. Information and ads on search engines, email, websites, and
         Facebook were seen and remembered by at least one-quarter of online students. It should
         be noted that TV ads (30%) and college fairs (23%) were also remembered by a significant
         number of students, presenting potentially strong advertisement opportunities in traditional
         media.

         In digital media, YouTube ads and ads on apps and podcasts were less likely to be remembered.
         Traditional marketing channels including U.S. Postal Service direct mail, radio, and billboard
         advertisements were less likely to be remembered.

Section 2: Recruiting the Online College Student
Online College Students 2018: Comprehensive Data on Demands and Preferences                               page | 24
In which of the following do you remember seeing advertisements or
                 information on online programs at the time you started your search for an
                                  online program? [Selected all that applied]

                         Listings on search engines
                         (Google, Bing, Yahoo, etc.)                                31%

                                Commercials on TV                                   30%

                                                Email                           29%

                              Ads on websites I visit                         25%

                               Ads on Facebook or
                            other social media sites                          25%

                              Posts on Facebook or
                            other social media sites                          25%

                                        College fairs                         23%

                         Ads on college search sites
              (eLearners.com, ClassesUSA.com, etc.)                    19%

                                 Videos on YouTube                 15%
                                                                                    Digital advertisements

                              Direct mail (snail mail)            14%               Traditional advertisements

                              Commercials on radio               13%

                                          Billboards            12%

                              Ads on apps that I use            12%

                                           Podcasts      5%

Section 2: Recruiting the Online College Student
Online College Students 2018: Comprehensive Data on Demands and Preferences                                      page | 25
PRIMARY SOURCES OF INFORMATION

         The school website is the No. 1 source (41%) for information on a student’s program. This is
         followed by internet search engines (34%), but these searches typically lead them back to the
         school website, which reinforces the importance of the website. Once students have identified
         a program of interest, they call the school directly (23%) for more information. Sources that are
         less often utilized include social media curated by the school (15%), along with certain aspects
         of the school website, such as virtual open houses (13%) and live chat (9%).

            After identifying schools of interest, what were your
            primary sources of detailed information about your program?                    All Students
            [Selected top three]

            The websites of the schools of interest                                            41%

            Internet search engines (Google, Bing, etc.)                                       34%

            Phone calls to the schools                                                         23%

            Conversations with friends, family                                                 21%

            Printed school guides and other materials                                          18%

            Attending an open house/other event                                                16%

            Social media sites (Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, etc.)                             15%

            Conversations with my employer or colleagues                                       14%

            Attending a virtual open house                                                     13%

            College search sites like eLearners.com, ClassesUSA, eLearnPortal.com              13%

            Conversations with alumni                                                          10%

            Live chat on the school website                                                    9%

            Other                                                                              1%

Section 2: Recruiting the Online College Student
Online College Students 2018: Comprehensive Data on Demands and Preferences                                  page | 26
R E CO M M E N DAT I O N:
            Online college students are naturally taking advantage of the internet to research and
            seek information about where they would like to attend online. Mobile devices are
            clearly being used to gather this information, which means that program information
            and marketing materials need to be optimized for mobile users. Interestingly,
            prospective online students also remember seeing nondigital ads, such as TV
            commercials, and attended college fairs at sizable rates; therefore, a multichannel
            approach would be best to attract these students to online programs. Prospects also
            use digital and nondigital means to solicit information on their program of choice as
            well. As a result, information should also be made available in multiple formats.

Section 2: Recruiting the Online College Student
Online College Students 2018: Comprehensive Data on Demands and Preferences                          page | 27
ONLINE PROGRAM FEATURES

         Online programs can have several features to help attract and retain students. In the survey,
         we asked about three large categories of features: reduced total cost (p), time to completion
         (n), and program quality and reputation (v). Although we know tuition and fees are very
         important to online college students, when asking about online program features surrounding
         time to completion, these choices also have a significant level of importance to online
         students. Within this category, features such as year-round courses (27%), self-paced courses
         (25%), and being able to complete their program faster than a classroom program (25%) are
         very important features for one-quarter or more of online college students.

            Which of the following specific features of some online programs
            are most important in your selection of a specific online program in        All Students
            which you want to enroll? [Selected top three]

            p    Available scholarships, grants and/or assistantships                       31%

            n Courses offered year-round (across all 12 months)                            27%

            n Courses that are self-paced/do not have set deadlines                        25%

            n Ability to complete studies in less time than a classroom program            25%

            n Availability of fast-track accelerated courses                               20%

            n Ability to enroll in classroom courses also (if desired)                      18%

            n Frequent program start dates throughout the year                              18%

            v    Graduates are well-respected by employers in my field                      17%

            v    Some online classes have sessions with set time to
                                                                                            15%
                 facilitate contact between students and instructors

            p    Generous policies regarding acceptance of previously earned credit         14%

            v    Many faculty are also practitioners in their field                         11%

            v    Ability to work in teams with other students                               9%

            v    Many faculty teach full time, hold a doctorate                             8%

            Something else                                                                  0%

Section 2: Recruiting the Online College Student
Online College Students 2018: Comprehensive Data on Demands and Preferences                              page | 28
THE “SINGLE MOST IMPORTANT REASON” FOR
         SELECTING A SCHOOL

         Once online college students have considered different programs, nearly one-quarter
         primarily chose a school based on the fact that it has the program that best matched their
         needs and interests. This statistic shows how having the program in an online format is critical
         in increasing enrollment, especially when institutions consider the fact that 15% of online
         students only consider one school. An additional one-fifth (19%) chose the least expensive
         school, reinforcing the strong influence price has on the decision. Reputation and perceived
         value are the most important factor for 25% of students. Interestingly, we know from Online
         College Students 2016 that approximately 20% of online students talk to friends and family
         about their selection, but only 3% ultimately weigh a personal recommendation as their top
         reason for selecting an institution.

            Which of the following was the single most important
            reason you selected your top choice school, relative to the                   All Students
            others you considered?

            The programs best matched my interests/needs                                      24%

            It was least expensive                                                            19%

            I only considered one school                                                      15%

            It has the best reputation                                                        13%

            It was the best value (combination of cost, reputation, and convenience)          12%

            It was the school I knew best                                                     5%

            It was the closest school to where I live or work                                 4%

            Offered quickest path to a degree                                                 4%

            It was the school that was recommended to me by someone I respect                 3%

            Had the most favorable admissions requirements                                    2%

            Other                                                                             0%

Section 2: Recruiting the Online College Student
Online College Students 2018: Comprehensive Data on Demands and Preferences                                 page | 29
R E CO M M E N DAT I O N:
            Online college students may be willing to select a program that allows them to
            complete their studies sooner (and save them money) even though tuition and fees are
            still one of their top deciding factors when selecting an institution. As not every school
            can be the least expensive, time to completion can become a variable to help a school
            tackle total cost if cost per credit is less of an option. Year-round courses, accelerated
            courses, and multiple entry points can make a difference when a student is choosing
            between a program that does not offer these same features and are low hurdles for
            most colleges and universities to navigate.

Section 2: Recruiting the Online College Student
Online College Students 2018: Comprehensive Data on Demands and Preferences                              page | 30
SECTION 3:
                         FINANCING EDUCATION
                        FOR THE ONLINE STUDENT

         TUITION REIMBURSEMENT

         Forty-seven percent of undergraduate students and 64% of graduate students are employed
         full time, making tuition reimbursement an important employee benefit for institutions to
         recognize. However, half of these groups say that they did not use this benefit for their
         education. About one-fifth of these groups noted that they did not have access to tuition
         reimbursement. But when that group is factored out, it leaves 71% of undergraduate students
         and 61% percent of graduate students who did not use this existing benefit for their online
         education programs.

            Did you use employer tuition reimbursement?
                                                                        Undergraduate   Graduate
            [Employed full or part time]

            Yes                                                               23%         32%

            No                                                                54%         49%

            Benefit not offered                                               23%         19%

Section 3: Financing Education for the Online College Student
Online College Students 2018: Comprehensive Data on Demands and Preferences                            page | 31
PRICE VERSUS OTHER FACTORS

        Online college students place a strong emphasis on tuition and fees. One interesting fact is
        that if they could redo the selection process, understanding tuition and fees of the institution
        they chose is an item they would “do over.” To help gauge the importance of tuition and fees,
        we asked a question that compared this factor to convenience, fit, and reputation.

        Online students were almost evenly split when weighing tuition against these other factors.
        However, 72% of online college students would ultimately choose a program that costs more
        if they felt they were benefiting in terms of convenience, fit, or reputation.

                Which of the following statements about tuition is the closest to how your
                                     made your enrollment decision?

                                                                     Tuition for my preferred program is the
             28%                                                     lowest among the programs I evaluated.

                                                                     Tuition for my preferred program is higher than
                                                         28%         some others but the program’s convenience and
                                                                     its format, schedule and location are ideal for me.

                                                                     Tuition for my preferred program is higher
                                                          21%        than some, but the content is what I want.

                                                                     The school and the program I chose/will
                                72%                      23%         choose has the best reputation

Section 3: Financing Education for the Online College Student
Online College Students 2018: Comprehensive Data on Demands and Preferences                                        page | 32
INFLUENCE OF SCHOLARSHIPS

        Scholarships are a strong draw for online students, receiving a slight edge over tuition
        discounts. Forty-eight percent of students would be most attracted to either one of these
        benefits, which both have a significant lead over free items like textbooks, courses, or
        technology equipment.

        Data from the past few years of the Online College Students survey has consistently shown
        that awards do not need to be large dollar amounts. A $500 annual scholarship could sway
        39% of students. This relatively small amount could significantly impact online enrollments.

            Which would be the most attractive way a school could influence
                                                                                      All Students
            you to select it over another school?

            Scholarships                                                                 25%

            Tuition discount                                                             23%

            Tuition payment plan                                                          21%

            Free course                                                                   16%

            Free textbooks                                                                8%

            Free technology equipment (computer, iPad, tablet, etc.)                      7%

Section 3: Financing Education for the Online College Student
Online College Students 2018: Comprehensive Data on Demands and Preferences                            page | 33
To what extent would an annual scholarship have swayed you to enroll in one
                                         school over another?

                                      At least $500                           39%
                                                                        42%

                                     At least $1,000                   27%
                                                           21%
                                                                               2018

                                    At least $2,500             16%
                                                                               2017
                                                          19%

                                  More than $2,500               18%
                                                          19%

           R E CO M M E N DAT I O N:
           Online students are willing to pay more for fit, quality, and added convenience. Small
           scholarships can sway them from one prospective school to another, but schools should
           first look to improve the messaging of their program. The unique features of the programs
           need to be front and center, including what a student will gain from completing the
           program at that institution.

        OPTIMAL TUITION

        When asking current and past online students what they paid per credit — sans fees — for
        their online program, a wide variety of prices were given. However, there appears to be a
        common price range for undergraduate and graduate programs in the online marketplace.

        At the undergraduate level, students rarely pay more than $800 per credit (10%). The most
        common tuition rate is between $300 and $600 per credit.

Section 3: Financing Education for the Online College Student
Online College Students 2018: Comprehensive Data on Demands and Preferences                            page | 34
At the graduate level, there is a wider range of prices given the specialized nature of these
        programs. Along with STEM majors, computers and IT are on the higher end of the pricing
        spectrum, where they are opposed by programs in education, health, and — perhaps
        surprisingly — business. Twenty-nine percent of online graduate students pay more than
        $1,000 per credit, while 34% pay less than $600 per credit. A program priced around $800 to
        $1,000 per credit appears to be the most common in the market.

                          What is your per-credit tuition costs (not including fees)
                                   for your most recent online program?

                      33%                                   37%                          20%               10%
                                    Percent of Current and Past Undergraduate Students

                         $300 or less          $300 to $600          $600 to $800        $800 or more

                                                              $800 to $1,000     $1,000 to $1,200       $1,200 or more

                                                                      21%                15%            14%

             13%             21%                  16%                               50%
                                        Percent of Current and Past Graduate Students

                         $300 or less          $300 to $600          $600 to $800        $800 or more

           R E CO M M E N DAT I O N:
           Tuition is the most important variable a school should consider when launching online
           programs. Schools need to make tuition and any additional fees they may be charged
           easy for students to locate on their site. If there are on-campus fees that online
           students do not have to pay, they should be noted as well to demonstrate the money
           saved by learning online.

Section 3: Financing Education for the Online College Student
Online College Students 2018: Comprehensive Data on Demands and Preferences                                              page | 35
PERCEIVED VALUE OF ONLINE LEARNING

        Does higher education deliver on its promise to online students? Do they benefit from the
        program in some form? In the survey, we asked three questions to gain insight into the value of
        online learning: Was the experience comparable to a classroom experience, was the cost of
        the degree comparable to the value it provides, and did you achieve the goal that motivated
        you to enroll? For all three of these questions, the results were overwhelmingly positive.

        For online students who have previously enrolled in face-to-face and online courses, 85% felt
        that the experience in the online course was either the same or better than the classroom
        course. Between undergraduate and graduate learners, graduate students were more
        likely to feel their online experience was better than their previous face-to-face learning
        experience (42% versus 30%). Eighty-six percent of online college students feel the value
        they are receiving from their degree equals or exceeds the cost they paid for it. Two-thirds
        of online college students report achieving the original goal that motivated them to enroll in
        their program. Graduate students are more likely to say they achieved their goal compared
        to undergraduate students (76% versus 62%), with undergraduates more likely to say they did
        not yet achieve their goal (23% versus 12%).

               How would you compare the instruction of your college-level online learning
                     experiences with your college-level classroom experiences?

                                   15%
                                                          37%                 Better

                                                                              About the same

                                                                              Not as good

                                48%

Section 3: Financing Education for the Online College Student
Online College Students 2018: Comprehensive Data on Demands and Preferences                               page | 36
How would you assess the balance between the cost of your online education
                          with the lifetime value of that degree/certificate?

                                   14%
                                                         32%
                                                                              The value exceeds the cost

                                                                              The value equals the cost

                                                                              The costs exceed the value

                                  54%

                           Did your online program help you achieve the goal that
                                          motivated you to enroll?

                                   14%
                                                                              Yes

                           19%                                                Not yet

                                                                              No
                                                       67%

           R E CO M M E N DAT I O N:
           Online college students are satisfied with their experience. Schools should gather this
           feedback, as well as personal stories from students, and create materials that promote how
           online programs have helped students achieve their goals. This can inspire prospective
           students and help them understand how an online program can impact their futures.

Section 3: Financing Education for the Online College Student
Online College Students 2018: Comprehensive Data on Demands and Preferences                                page | 37
SECTION 4:
                             TEACHING THE ONLINE
                               COLLEGE STUDENT

         USING MOBILE DEVICES FOR ONLINE EDUCATION

         Online college students are using — and want the option to use — mobile devices to access
         the online classroom and complete related activities. Seventy-nine percent completed at
         least some, if not all (20%), of their online coursework using a mobile device, or they wish they
         had the option to do so. Only one in five (21%) students said that they did not use a mobile
         device for coursework and would not have wanted the option to do so. This is a sizeable
         minority, but a group that is likely shrinking.

         The most common activities for online students using mobile devices include accessing course
         readings (51%), communicating with professors (51%) and fellow students (44%), accessing the
         LMS (45%), conducting research for reports (41%), and completing assignments (40%). Fewer
         than one-third (31%) are accessing lectures; therefore, it appears that text-based activities
         are more likely to be completed on a mobile device than video or interactive activities. Sixty-
         seven percent of those who accessed course materials on a mobile device were satisfied or
         very satisfied with the way the content was presented on that platform. This figure is similar to
         the level of satisfaction for content when online students used a mobile device for conducting
         their online program search.

Section 4: Teaching the Online College Student
Online College Students 2018: Comprehensive Data on Demands and Preferences                                  page | 38
Did you complete any of your actual online course-related activities using your
                                     mobile device (phone/tablet)?

                                           Yes, all of my
                                course-related activities                      20%

                                        Yes, most of my
                                course-related activities                     18%

                                       Yes, some of my
                                course-related activities                            29%

                           No, but I would have liked to             12%

                            No, and I would not want to                        21%

            For what course-related activities do you use a mobile device?                  Current and
            [Selected all that applied]                                                    Past Students

            Reading required materials                                                         51%

            Communication with professors                                                      51%

            Accessing my college’s LMS (such as Blackboard, Canvas, Moodle)                    45%

            Communication with other students                                                  44%

            Research for reports                                                               41%

            Completing assignments                                                             40%

            Required lectures                                                                  31%

            Something else                                                                      1%

            I didn’t use mobile                                                                 3%

Section 4: Teaching the Online College Student
Online College Students 2018: Comprehensive Data on Demands and Preferences                                page | 39
INGREDIENTS FOR SUCCESS

         Interacting with classmates is important to students’ success. Fifty-seven percent of current
         and past online college students feel these interactions are very important or important. Only
         13% feel that these interactions are not important.

         Some of the most helpful activities for the online classroom happen to be asynchronous items
         that students are able to consume and complete on their own time. Videos and PowerPoint
         presentations from the professor (58%), textbooks (52%), and written assignments (51%) are
         all seen as very helpful to the learning and success of current and past online students.
         Synchronous sessions are very helpful to only one-third (33%) of learners, and third-party
         videos (37% very helpful) also seem to make less of an impression on these students.

              How important is it to your success as a student that you regularly engage with
                                     classmates in your online classes?

              13%        10%             20%                      26%                           31%
                                             Percent of Current and Past Students

                                                    1    2    3    4    5
                             Not very important                                Very important

Section 4: Teaching the Online College Student
Online College Students 2018: Comprehensive Data on Demands and Preferences                               page | 40
Please rate the following class activities and items in terms of how helpful they
                                           were to your learning and success.

                                        Very helpful               Somewhat helpful                   Not helpful               Not used
 58%

                       52%

                                             51%

                                                                    49%

                                                                                          46%

                                                                                                             43%

                                                                                                                                           45%
                                                                                                                    40%

                                                                                                                                     37%
                                                                          38%
                             37%

                                                   37%

                                                                                                                                                                  37%
                                                                                                35%

                                                                                                                                                            33%
       31%

                                                                                                                                                                          17%
                                                                                                                          14%

                                                                                                                                                                        14%
                                                                                                                                                 12%
                                                                                                      10%
                                   9%

                                                         9%

                                                                                9%

                                                                                                      9%
             8%

                                                                                                                                                       6%
                                                                                     4%
                  3%

                                        3%

                                                              3%

                                                                                                                                3%
   Videos and            Textbook               Written                Quizzes             Interactive         Discussion                Videos             Synchronous
   PowerPoint               and               assignments                                     media              boards                from third             sessions
  presentations           related                                                            (games,                                     parties               (Adobe
    from the             materials                                                         flashcards,                                                        Connect,
    professor                                                                                  etc.)                                                         Zoom, etc.)

                  R E CO M M E N DAT I O N:
                  Along with the school website, the online classroom is another area that needs to be
                  optimized for mobile devices. Since more than half of students point to a professor’s
                  presentations, textbooks, and written assignments as very helpful to their overall success,
                  these items should be prioritized as a classroom is made mobile friendly. The classroom
                  should also allow for regular interactions among students, as nearly 60% cite this as being
                  very important.

Section 4: Teaching the Online College Student
Online College Students 2018: Comprehensive Data on Demands and Preferences                                                                                             page | 41
SECTION 5:
                         INNOVATIONS FOR THE
                        ONLINE COLLEGE STUDENT

         COMPETENCY-BASED EDUCATION

         Competency-based education (CBE) has been a hot topic of conversation within the higher
         education community for the past few years. As schools discuss entering the market by
         creating competency-based courses and programs to boost completion, we have asked a
         series of questions in our survey to gauge student knowledge and interest in CBE. We have
         changed the questions over the years; therefore, the trend is only directional, though it shows
         student knowledge and familiarity with CBE has grown over the past five years.

         For the 2018 survey, we presented online students with the following information about CBE:

               “Competency-based learning is being used in some online programs. It avoids
               the traditional ‘credit hour’ system as students work to acquire competencies (a
               measure of knowledge attained, rather than time spent) at a self-defined pace.
               Students can progress more quickly, or more slowly, throughout the process.
               Professors coach and guide students through the material in a more personalized
               setting rather than lecture.”

         In 2018, 72% of online college students have some level of familiarity with CBE, with 17%
         reporting they have enrolled in or completed such a program. When asked where they
         completed the program, Western Governors University and the University of Wisconsin were
         cited as providers, as well as schools without known CBE programs, such as the University of
         Connecticut and Post University. Therefore, it appears that even with information provided to
         students, there is still confusion about CBE.

         Students are on board with the general idea of CBE, but they may need to learn more about
         what is involved. Forty-nine percent of students would be interested in a CBE program in the
         future, and an additional 48% would like to learn more about CBE.

Section 5: Innovations for the Online College Student
Online College Students 2018: Comprehensive Data on Demands and Preferences                                page | 42
How familiar are you with “competency-based” learning?

                                           17%
                      28%
                                                                       I enrolled in/completed such a program

                                                                       I am somewhat familiar

                                                                       I am not at all familiar

                                        55%

                      Would you consider a “competency-based” program in the future?

                                 2%

                                                                       Yes, I would definitely
                                                                       consider such a program

                                                  49%                  Maybe, I would research
                                                                       more about these programs
                  48%
                                                                       No, I would not consider
                                                                       such a program

            R E CO M M E N DAT I O N:
            Though CBE continues to receive much attention within higher education, there is still
            confusion among students about what it is and why they should care and seek out such
            programs. Which students should seek out these programs? And what are the benefits?
            Higher education needs to consider these types of questions and educate prospective
            students about CBE.

Section 5: Innovations for the Online College Student
Online College Students 2018: Comprehensive Data on Demands and Preferences                                     page | 43
STACKABLE CERTIFICATES

         Stackable certificates are another innovative concept in higher education that likely needs
         more explanation to prospective students. Stackable certificates enable students to learn
         specific skills in an area and earn an academic credential that can boost their employment
         opportunities. Multiple certificates can be stacked and become a full degree. This is a
         powerful route for students; otherwise, they would have to pursue these skills and knowledge
         in a program that does not offer credit, or they would have to go outside of higher education,
         where academic quality and verifiable learning is less regulated and transparent.

         In our survey, we have examined stackable certificates for multiple years and found a strong
         surge in interest since 2013. During this period, students not interested in stackable certificates
         have reduced dramatically, from 18% in 2013 to 6% in 2018.

         We presented online students with the following information about stackable certificates:

               “Some institutions have begun offering so-called stackable certificates, a type of
               credential that can be earned individually, with several combining over time to
               earn a degree.”

                 How interested might you be in this option for undergraduate or graduate
                         study, if it were available in your subject area of interest?

                            Very interested                                   43%
                                                           32%
                                                                                            2018
                       Somewhat interested                                      52%
                                                                        50%                 2013

                             Not interested     6%
                                                  18%

Section 5: Innovations for the Online College Student
Online College Students 2018: Comprehensive Data on Demands and Preferences                                    page | 44
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